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Regenerative clothing: The future of sustainable fashion?

regenerative clothing

From regenerative cotton to climate-beneficial wool, the hottest fashion trend out there might be the one you’ve never heard of. Regenerative clothing is an approach to fashion that goes beyond sustainability to actively regenerate local ecosystems and communities. And it’s catching on. 

What is regenerative clothing?

Our wardrobes are changing – for the better. Rapidly rotating collections and environmentally damaging production methods are making way for regenerative clothing, an approach to fashion that goes beyond sustainability to actively restore local ecosystems and communities.

By leveraging regenerative agricultural practices, regenerative clothing contributes positively to the environment, offering a sustainable and ethical alternative to fast fashion that not only minimizes harm but actively promotes ecological regeneration.

How is regenerative clothing linked to regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is a farming practice that prioritizes the health of the land, promoting soil fertility, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Regenerative agriculture employs a variety of techniques to achieve this. Key practices include:

  • Crop rotation and diversity: Planting different types of crops in succession to improve soil nutrients and reduce pests.
  • Cover cropping: Growing crops specifically to cover the soil, preventing erosion and enhancing soil health.
  • No-till farming: Minimizing soil disturbance to maintain soil structure and microbial life.
  • Composting and manure use: Adding organic matter to enrich the soil.
  • Agroforestry: Integrating trees and shrubs into agricultural systems to promote biodiversity and carbon capture.

By sourcing materials from regenerative farms, the fashion industry can create garments that contribute to ecological balance and vitality. Essentially, regenerative clothing is an extension of these farming principles, applied to the world of fashion.

regenerative agriculture producing cotton sustainable

Why do we need regenerative clothing?

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting sectors in the world, responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions, water pollution and waste. To put that in perspective: the fashion industry contributes 8-10% of annual global emissions. That’s equivalent to one full truckload of old clothes and textiles going to landfill or incineration every second.

With the rise of hyper-fast fashion brands like Shein, our planet is being overwhelmed by the manufacturing, shipping and disposal of bad quality clothing.

Regenerative clothing offers a solution to these problems by:

  • Reducing environmental impact: By using carefully sourced materials such as regenerative cotton, the production of clothing can actually improve environmental health.
  • Enhancing soil health: Supporting regenerative agriculture helps to restore soil fertility and biodiversity.
  • Promoting ethical practices: Regenerative farming often goes hand-in-hand with fair labor practices and community support.
  • Creating high-quality garments: Regenerative materials tend to be of higher quality, offering longer lasting and more durable clothing options. The fewer clothes we buy and discard, the better for the environment. 

Regenerative clothing and the circular economy

Regenerative clothing also plays a significant role in promoting the circular economy. The circular economy aims to minimize waste and make the most of resources by creating a ‘closed-loop’ system. In this system, existing products and materials are shared, leased, reused, repaired and recycled for as long as possible.

Regenerative clothing contributes to circularity by using materials from regenerative agriculture, which produces higher-quality fibers that are durable and biodegradable. This aligns with the circular economy principle of creating products that are made to last and can be safely returned to the environment at the end of their lifecycle. The result is reduced reliance on synthetic, non-biodegradable textiles that contribute to landfill waste and can wreak havoc on ecosystems in the form of microplastics.

In addition, regenerative clothing brands often educate consumers about the importance of sustainability and the circular economy, encouraging mindful consumption and the appreciation of long-lasting, eco-friendly products.

What are other benefits of buying regenerative clothing?

  • Economic benefits: when you switch your regular buying patterns and look for regenerative fashion, this has economic benefits. Mainly for farmers and communities involved in regenerative agriculture. Farmers can get better prices because these fabrics are seen as premium. Regenerative farming can also lower costs, as there is less need for the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Reduced risk of crop failure: agricultural systems and environments that are more biodiverse, are less vulnerable to pests or diseases that could harm crops.
  • Value for money: instead of buying trendy fashion, but low quality products on websites like Shein, you get high-quality garments that will last.
  • Awareness: the more people become aware, the more people buy regenerative clothing, the more companies will be forced to change the way they produce fashion. Systemic change can be stimulated by consumers!

What to look for in regenerative clothing

Regenerative clothing is a natural fit for anyone looking to dress more sustainably. As it is a relatively new approach to sustainable fashion, it is important to understand what makes a garment truly regenerative. Here are some things to look out for:

Regenerative materials

  • Regenerative cotton: Grown using methods that restore soil health and biodiversity. This cotton is produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, promoting healthier ecosystems.
  • Hemp: Naturally regenerative, hemp improves soil health through its deep roots that prevent erosion and its ability to grow without synthetic inputs.
  • Wool: Regenerative wool comes from sheep raised on regenerative farms, where grazing practices enhance soil carbon sequestration and biodiversity.
  • Linen: Made from flax, linen can be produced regeneratively by using crop rotations and minimal chemical inputs to improve soil health.
  • Bamboo: When sourced from regenerative farms, bamboo can be a sustainable option due to its rapid growth and minimal need for pesticides.

Certifications

Certifications can also help to identify genuine regenerative clothing. Although there are currently a limited number of certifications in this area, look out for:

  • Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC): A certification provided by the Regenerative Organic Alliance for textiles, food and personal care ingredients that ensures farming practices enhance soil health, animal welfare and social fairness. The alliance sets rigorous standards to guarantee that regenerative practices truly benefit the environment, animals and people.
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): Although not exclusively regenerative, GOTS ensures the organic status of textiles from harvesting to labeling, including ecological and social criteria.
  • Climate Beneficial Wool: Indicates wool produced in a way that contributes positively to climate health by capturing more carbon than it emits, verified by the Fibershed program.
regenerative denim brands

Ten regenerative clothing brands leading the way

According to one estimate, 60% of our wardrobe will be secondhand by 2030. Upcycling is also becoming increasingly common in several industries, including fashion. However, if you do buy something new, choose brands that provide clear information about their sourcing and manufacturing processes, and opt for well-made garments that are designed to last. 

Here are ten brands leading the way:  

  1. Patagonia: Renowned for its commitment to environmental sustainability, Patagonia uses organic regenerative cotton and supports various regenerative agriculture initiatives, setting a high standard in eco-friendly outdoor apparel.
  2. Outerknown: Co-founded by surfer Kelly Slater, Outerknown is ‘smashing the formula of how clothes are made’. The brand emphasizes transparency and sustainability, using regenerative materials to create durable, stylish clothing that respects the planet.
  3. Christy Dawn: The Los Angeles-based Christy Dawn focuses on regenerative farming for its fabrics, producing beautiful, timeless dresses and garments that promote soil health and biodiversity.
  4. Secteur 6: A fully regenerative and progressive fashion brand that aims to ‘heal the earth and uplift workers’, explicitly women, who receive equal pay, equal opportunity and equal respect. 
  5. Eileen Fisher: Eileen Fisher is dedicated to sustainability and ethical practices. To produce its elegant, long-lasting clothing, the brand uses fibers sourced from Argentinian ranchers who are regenerating depleted grasslands.
  6. Prana: Known for its activewear and casual clothing, Prana incorporates organic regenerative cotton and supports fair trade practices, ensuring its products benefit both the environment and the communities involved in their production.
  7. Levi’s: This iconic denim brand may not be the first that comes to mind when thinking about regenerative clothing. However, the company has begun incorporating regenerative farming practices into its supply chain, particularly with its Wellthread line, which focuses on sustainability and circular fashion.
  8. Cuyana: Cuyana emphasizes fewer, better things. It incorporates regenerative practices into its sourcing to create high-quality, timeless pieces that reduce waste and support environmental health.
  9. MUD Jeans: A circular fashion brand that uses recycled materials and regenerative cotton, promoting sustainable production methods and offering a lease-and-return model to minimize waste.
  10. Fibershed: A non-profit organization that partners with various brands to promote regenerative textile systems, Fibershed is creating a network of farmers, designers and manufacturers committed to ecological restoration and sustainable fashion.

Affordable regenerative clothing brands

Looking for affordable fashion, but still want to buy regenerative? Here are some suggestions.

  1. PACT: known for affordable organic clothing, mostly sourced from farms that practice regenerative agriculture.
  2. Tentree: not only a sustainable clothing company, they have also set an ambitious target to plant 1 billion trees by 2030. They are already well underway, with over 105 million trees planted!

The future of regenerative clothing

As regenerative clothing becomes more mainstream, it has the potential to transform the fashion industry from one of the top polluters to a leader in environmental restoration. Embracing regenerative clothing means supporting a future where fashion is not just sustainable but also regenerative, helping to restore the planet without compromising on style. 

It turns out, the clothes we wear can make a world of difference.

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